June 19, 2014 at 10:06 pm

GM's top designer Ed Welburn may appear in Transformers' new installment

Top designer's office transformed into CIA bureau for film shoot

Paramount Pictures)

Warren —In the upcoming action blockbuster “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” expect to see a bolder, stronger and more dramatic Chevrolet Camaro that transforms into the plucky Autobot named Bumblebee — as well as a Corvette Stingray, Chevy Sonic Rally Car and Chevy Trax.

You might even see GM’s top designer, Ed Welburn, who filmed a speaking part for the Michael Bay movie that hits theaters June 27.

In a film clip shown to media on Thursday, the generally calm Welburn, appearing to be angry, points to the film’s star Mark Wahlberg and speaks the lines, “My office in 15 minutes. I think you know where that is.”

Welburn, who is GM’s vice president of global design, said he spent a day filming the scene in GM’s Design Dome, and it took a few takes for him to “get angry.” He said he was worried it would end up on the cutting room floor, but the last he heard, it’s still in the movie. He wasn’t able to divulge what the scene is about.

A crew of about 200 people spent a few weeks last summer filming at the GM Tech Center, converting Welburn’s famed mid-century modern office into an executive office for the Central Intelligence Agency.

“All my car stuff was gone,” he recalls. “Every book, every paper was all CIA documents.”

Scenes were also shot in GM’s Design Center lobby and staircase, the executive garage at the design center and in the design center’s Virtual Reality studio, a room typically used to communicate with GM’s design studios across the globe.

Filming also took place in the company’s aerodynamics lab and climatic wind tunnels, and at an entrance gate at the Tech Center. Scenes were also shot on GM’s Proving Ground track in Milford and at GM’s Lansing Delta Township plant. Cadillac Escalades and the Cadillac Ciel concept car also were used.

GM and the “Transformers” movie empire have a long history, with vehicles featured in each of Bay’s four movies. The fifth-generation Camaro appeared in the 2007 film, two years before it went on sale. This time around, Bay and Welburn met in late 2012 to consider what vehicles could be used in the upcoming movie.

The leaner and meaner Camaro in the film originally was sketched by Jelani Aliyu, senior creative designer for the Camaro. Its base was a Camaro SS but it was modified in many spots.

Aliyu said his sketch is close to the finished vehicle, or character as he sees it. He said he had to “give it a soul,” and the Camaro features a new face and “eyes.” He gave it a wider track and bigger tires.

Moviemakers received two Camaros, two Corvettes and five Sonics for filming, though a few Sonics were “destroyed” in filming.

GM built the Allspark Corvette Stingray — with modifications for the movie — at the Warren Tech Center. The green sportscar turns into the Autobot Crosshairs in the film; the color was chosen based on trend research and will pop visually on the screen.

The movies have built Camaro sales, and this fourth installment is expected to have global appeal. Welburn said “Transformers” is huge in China. A new commercial for the 2014 Camaro begins airing Friday; it features a boy who asks, “Bumblebee, is that you?”

“These movies have helped us get our vehicles in front of a younger audience around the world,” Tim Mahoney, chief marketing officer for Global Chevrolet, said in a statement.

Welburn’s office — which originally was designer Harley Earl’s office — still features today a CIA seal on the wall; Welburn asked to keep it. The designer, who had a brief, non-speaking role as a janitor in the third “Transformers” movie, plans to attend the premiere for “Transformers: Age of Extinction” next week in New York.

mburden@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2319
Twitter.com/MBurden_DN

Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz in 'Transformers: Age of Extinction.' The ... (Paramount Pictures)
Ed Welburn, vice president of global design for GM, filmed a speaking part ... (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
A Chevrolet Camaro that converts into the iconic Bumblebee, left, and a ... (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
This Chevrolet Sonic Rally Car will also be featured in the 'Transformers' ... (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)